Bluemull stays free
Ferry fares at Bluemull Sound will not be reinstated, it was decided at a meeting of the Inter Islands Ferries Board this week.
The decision to remove ferry fares between Yell, Unst and Fetlar was made back in September 2005, a move designed to help with the economic regeneration of Unst following the closure of the RAF Saxa Vord base, which it was feared would prompt severe depopulation.
The situation is kept under periodic review and the continuation of the no fares policy has been approved on a number of occasions, although one or two board members have in the past raised their concern at the unfairness of removing fares from one route but not others.
It had initially been intended to reintroduce the fares in April 2008 but that decision was twice knocked back last year before this week’s discussion.
A consultants’ report early last year found that in the two years up to July 2007 the removal of fares had led to a growth of eight per cent in passengers and 12 per cent in car journeys on the route, since when there have been considerable improvements to the timetable and a new ferry has removed capacity constraints.
Council transport head Michael Craigie said the cost of implementing the charges would offset any income generated by it, meaning that no money would be made from fares.
While social and economic issues would also be affected by bringing back the fares and would have to be considered, councillor Caroline Miller said that each island in question – Unst, Fetlar and to a lesser extent Yell – has problems of their own and require different strategies and that in light of this, the ferry fares should not be reinstated. She was seconded by councillor Laura Baisley.
Councillors were in agreement that unless fares were to bring some benefit, economic or otherwise, that the situation should remain as it is.